Classic Aircraft Saved For Britain

Some of Britain’s greatest aircraft that heralded in the jet age have been saved for the nation through the generosity of Jersey-based businessman and enthusiast Mike Collett. Mr Collett’s collection, which includes a former World Record holding English Electric Canberra, Gloster Meteor and De Havilland Vampire, all flyable, would have achieved well over one million pounds in auction in the United States. Mr Collett has donated in total some ten aircraft to the newly created The Classic Aircraft Trust (TCAT) which plans to keep them all in the air.

“There is a strong tradition in Britain of preserving the nation’s industrial and technological heritage, and the creation of The Classic Aircraft Trust follows in this great tradition,” said Mr Collett.

Tim Skeet, Chairman of the Trust, explains:

“There are numerous examples of Britain’s early post war aircraft sitting in museums but very few that remain airworthy. This new Trust has been set up to ensure that we can raise funds efficiently to secure the future of the few aircraft we have left. It has taken years to get the Meteor T7 back in the air and our aim is to try and ensure that it and the rest of the fleet can be flown.

“This unique collection founded by Mike Collett, includes iconic examples of early post war aircraft, built by long gone names from British aviation history, including Gloster, de Havilland, English Electric and Scottish Aviation. Ensuring that future generations can learn about the technology and design features of this early post war technology is only really possible if the equipment still fully works.

“Besides keeping those aircraft that are already airworthy fully operational the Trust plans restore the historic altitude record breaking Canberra B2/6 to flying condition. This, along with the collection’s T4, are two of the last potentially airworthy examples of a world beating and innovative British design that revolutionised jet development.

“The Trust will also continue to operate the Meteor T7, Britain’s oldest flying jet aircraft, and its sister the Meteor NF11, besides examples of the Vampire and later Venom fighter from the 1950s.”

These aircraft will not only thrill crowds at air shows; they will be the centrepieces of an educational experience at living air museum, AIRBASE, where students and enthusiasts can learn about the engineering, design and history of these machines. Visitors will be able to examine airframes, engines and find out about systems developments in aircraft that are still able to do precisely what they were conceived to do – take to the air.

Mr Collett concluded: “It has taken significant efforts to bring these very rare aircraft together and keep them flying. The efforts of many people lie behind these unique machines, which are so different from modern computer designed and operated, composite built aircraft. It is vital that we preserve these aircraft as a collection for the nation that designed and built them. This is a major part of our heritage.”

TCAT is based at AIRBASE, Coventry Airport West, and will be working within the AIRBASE museum to ensure that the general public can access a vibrant and exciting facility, seeing static and working examples of these iconic aircraft.

Article submitted by Malcolm Ginsberg.